In the spring of 2006, the Rt Hon John Healey MP visited Hammersmith to see how the Labour Administration’s extra investment into policing had produced the biggest falls in crime in London.
That May, the Conservatives took control of H&F Council following the local elections. Then - having promised residents “zero tolerance” on crime during the campaign – the Conservatives promptly reversed their position, removed all police funding from the Hammersmith team and cut police numbers in neighbourhoods with the highest crime. Now our borough’s crime figures languish behind Lambeth, Waltham Forest and a host of other London boroughs with crime up significantly in some wards. That's one reason why H&F Labour pledge that, if we form the next Administration in 2010, we will increase police numbers and give the five wards with the highest crime 24/7 police Task Squads.
John Healey is now the Minister for Local Government. I took him around the borough to see the harm the reductions in services and new stealth taxes are causing local people. John saw the boarded up Castle Youth Club (see pic left). This had provided a wide range of facilities to local young people but the Conservatives closed it down and sold it off. It is now set to become luxury flats. He saw Hurlingham Park which is currently still fenced off and - where children once played - there are mechanical diggers preparing for an exclusive polo tournament after the Tories hired out the local green space to an event organiser. I told John how the Tories are using new stealth taxes to put cost up to local residents. There are 578 of these which include the new garden waste charge introduced after the elections and set to be hiked up to £25 this summer.
We also popped in on Michael Templar’s birthday party at Wentworth Court Sheltered Housing scheme. Michael is one of the tenants’ forum reps and around forty residents of pensionable age turned out to take part in the celebrations. John took time to chat with all of the elderly residents. Many took the opportunity to tell him of their fears over the Council’s plans to remove the vital sheltered housing wardens.
Oddly, H&F Council instructed a member of their press office to go to the birthday party and insisted that he was actually allowed into the room were the celebrations were happening. He sat there and studiously took notes of everything everyone said. When I asked him what he was doing there he said he was “only following orders”. I'm told that the orders came directly from the Tory Leader of the Council. I cannot ever recall anything like this happening before and conclude that this is another instance of H&F Council’s PRAVDA style approach to their press operation.